Sure you can.
1) Scope out possible planting locations. Trees need room for both branches and roots to spread out, so adequate space is key. So is good soil. Is yours loose and loamy, or dense and full of clay? And what about water? Is your spot high and dry or low and prone to flooding? The place you pick determines what tree will do best in your yard.
2) Choose your tree. Consider how big the tree will get and how fast it will grow, as well as its sun, soil and water requirements. Arbor Day’s ‘right tree in the right place’ guide will help you find options that work for your “micro” climate. Consider species native to your area to help promote biodiversity.
If you live in a zone that is prone to drought, one of these trees could do well:
If your region gets a lot of moisture, one of these trees would be better:
3) Put your tree in the ground. How you plant a tree will depend on whether the roots are bare, wrapped in burlap, or potted in a container. Regardless, you’ll need to dig a hole that’s deeper and wider than the roots and add aged compost. After your tree is in the ground, clear grass at least three feet away from the trunk in every direction and mulch with wood chips or shredded bark to help the roots retain moisture and act as a buffer against temperature extremes. Water deeply upon planting, then regularly until the tree roots get established.
If you like to do things from scratch, you can plant a seed. Again, consider seeds that are native to your location. You might want to start the seed in a container so you can nurture it along over the couple of years it will take to grow into a seedling you can transplant. Fill a one- or -two gallon container with dirt that contains some rich organic matter, then make a hole about 1 inch deep, pop in the seed and cover with soil. It doesn’t get easier than that.
Once you plant a tree, keep it healthy so you can enjoy all the benefits it offers. It will attract birds and other wildlife, and provide shade to keep you cooler in summer. The leaves will help filter soot and dust, clearing the air, and convert carbon dioxide back into oxygen, reducing global warming and climate change. Plus research shoes that trees and the sound of their leaves tend to make people feel more relaxed. In fact, hospital patients recover more quickly when their room offers a view of trees! Having some trees to look out on from your porch or patio could have an equally calming effect on you.
If you don’t have enough space in your own yard to accommodate a tree, plant one in your community. Work with your local public works department to choose a species or location.
Or support global tree planting campaigns, like the one Avon is running through its Hello Green Tomorrow program.
Some cities, like Pittsburgh, require residents to obtain a tree planting permit. You may want to check to see if this is the case where you live.
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(Disclosure: I provide green living tips to Hello Green Tomorrow.)
(Thanks to research assistant Tracy Gaudet of Inspire Planning for research help.)